Research — 18 December 2014

Challenging new research suggests that well-connected employees adapt well to pressures caused by changes in the workplace.

Industries often have to implement pay cuts, reduce working hours, and provide fewer training and promotion opportunities as methods to cope with economic downturn and industry competition.

Where previous research has suggested cut backs result in a demotivated and unhappy workforce, experts from Monash University and the University of Iowa say this might not necessarily be the case.

As discussed in study findings published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, researchers determined that some employees can respond positively to change in the workplace. Researchers, however, found that this occurs only in workers who are well connected and are a good fit for the organization.

Drs. Kohyar Kiazad, Scott Seibert, and Maria Kraimer created an online survey to find out worker’s responses to “psychological contract breach.”office-170639_1280

This term is used by experts to describe what employees experience when they believe their employer has broken its promises. Previous research suggested that withdrawing from work, reduced productivity, and generally feeling unhappy in the workplace are all typical employee reactions to psychological contract breach.

The new findings, which surveyed around 100 people at two time-points spanning six months, suggest some employees react positively to a negative workplace. Examples included implementing new working methods or techniques, coaching team members on new skills to improve efficiency, or establishing new goals and targets.

Kiazad, lead researcher on the study, believes the findings suggests employees are active participants in the workplace and not just passive recipients of environmental pressures and demands.

“Employees do not always respond destructively to broken promises by their employer, especially when they are well connected, fit the organization and have little to lose if they were to leave,” he said.

The findings suggest that organizations should review their recruitment and selection processes to ensure a good fit between an employee and the company. One way to do this is to provide applicants with realistic information about an organization’s beliefs and values.

Kiazad said the findings do not mean companies should break their promises to trigger better employee performance. Furthermore, companies need to be more proactive in creating opportunities for employees to feel connected to the organization as well as to fellow workers.

“Today’s volatile business environment makes it increasingly difficult for organizations to fulfill all their obligations to employees. By implementing human resource practices that increase employees’ social connectivity and fit within the workplace, companies may empower employees to adopt a constructive response if or when breach does occur.

“That might mean regular social events, mentoring programs or the use of role models as a means to improve employees’ social connectivity within the workplace,” he said.

This article first appeared on ‘Psych Central’ on 17 December 2014.

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